Alone Now, I Do Not Have Any Family Left

by Katherine
(Alexandria, VA)

Following is the letter I sent to mom's friends upon her passing. To this day, I am having a hard time dealing with her leaving. As your site says, I do feel guilty about my behavior through life, I feel guilty I did not take control and have her moved to a hospital I felt to be better, I am mad at the doctor for not calling me as her time drew near, I am mad they kept giving her so many drugs, her body didn't know which way to go, and I do feel guilty I was not with her on her last day. I have spent the last two days in depression, going through old pictures and talking to her -- 10 months later!

While I notice most posts are about mom's who recently passed, I just found this site, so please forgive my going back to last year.


It is with a very heavy heart, that I write this letter. Please excuse the generic nature, but I wanted to be sure, that all of mom's friends were told:

On November 5th, 2008, mom was taken to the hospital late at night; was suffering with low blood sugar and high BP; that was put under control quickly.

Following day, she needed to be treated with IV antibiotics to treat a severe case of cellulitis she already had, but it wasn't responding to oral antibiotics. Her leg was bright red, from her ankle to her knee. After a couple days, it was clearing up nicely.

But, it was then discovered that she had a blood clot in her other (good) leg. They had done a scan to be sure the cellulitis wasn't really a clot. So they put her on a double-dose of blood thinner, which caused her to soft tissue bleed, something the doctor has said she has never seen; very rare. Mom's lower back was deep dark purple from side-to-side. In the beginning it was very painful, and she couldn't lay on her back. When she called me in distress, I thought she was over-exaggerating. But once I saw it; OH MY! So they took her to intermediate critical care, and started her on plasma and vitamins to get her blood built back up, so they could insert a filter to catch any clots. (My aunt had that done too.) Well, they tried and tried to get IV's in her since she needed multiple drugs; veins kept collapsing. So they took her to insert a PIC-line, which is one device with multiple ports for IV's; couldn't get it in. Tried again the next day, and did get it in (her neck); two days later, they inserted the filter. That was the easiest thing of her whole ordeal, and we thought she would then come home!

She then developed the inevitable pneumonia (or so we thought), every word and breath was a crackle/rattle. I had never heard anything like it. She had pneumonia almost every year, but this was something I had never heard. After a week, and many episodes of her not being able to breathe, and wanting to die, etc. (she was on the moon with drugs, didn't remember any of it); they thought it was cleared up enough, for her to go into rehab. So they discharged her on the day before Thanksgiving, to a rehab. facility on the grounds where she lived. We thought it was a true answer to prayer, but her breathing problems crept right back up.

She was taken back to the hospital Sunday after Thanksgiving, she was all of four days out of the hospital during the month between going in, and passing. She was admitted to Coronary ICU (CICU) after a scan discovered a "large" clot in the lung, and the pneumonia was back with a vengeance. At least in there she got great care! Doctor said, it was hard to determine when the clot formed; before the filter was installed, or after. Hard to determine, because she was having renal failure, and thus, they could not do a scan with contrast – only a scan. The lungs were heavily congested, and if a clot was there, it blended in. Only after she was in CICU and her renal failure had reversed, were they able to do the scan with contrast, that is when they discover the lung clot.

After three days in CICU and the danger zone for the clot had passed, she was moved to a very nice, small & quiet ward. They were going to move her to where she was in the beginning, and we both said a resounding NO! It was horrible care to say the least. I think where she ended up, was actually the cancer ward, thus explaining the extreme quiet, and good attention she got. Anyway, they removed the catheter, and her oxygen was lowered from 16 to 5 (was 3 when she was discharged).

As true to what you hear so many times, before a person passes, they get better. I was hopeful, the next day, things would be better. But, when I left that evening, she was having the breathing difficulty again. It really never went away, but would be good, and then bad. Poor thing had not been out of bed in over a month; it was going to take a lot of therapy to get her half-way upright again. She was already walking very bent over, due to her severe back pain! Through-out the year, the back pain had worn her down mentally and physically. Perhaps that was the true start of her decline. To me, it's amazing how fast things happened. Mom was still in good mind, and fighting to beat the pneumonia. But, she also was very ready to go home to the Lord. Many people prayed (myself included), for God's will to be done. That if she was going to go home, and never have a true quality of life, it was prayed for God to end her suffering.

It was a true up/down emotional roller-coaster for me (and of course her); my nerves were a mess. I kept trying to impress upon her just how far she had come, because she truly didn't realize she had been to the brink and back. I do ask myself though, would all of this happened, if she had not gone in to begin with. A person I guess, can bring their sugar up at home. But she was pretty immobile, and perhaps the clot started then. She was medicating herself with Oxycontin which left her unable to remember when she had the last dose. She wouldn't eat because of heartburn, thus leading to the low blood sugar. I went through periods of anger, and questioning God. But, I know inside, this is not the right thing to do!

Poor thing, just kept saying I can't believe what has happened to me. I always had to wonder, what was going through her mind, knowing she had that horrible clot, and the terrible pneumonia. She had stopped asking to go home, and I noticed the day before she passed, her blood pressure was extremely low. That was the one thing, I had read about the dying process, that the BP will lower. She made me cry, by asking me how I was holding up. I told her not to ask me that (with tears in my eyes), I told her I have many friends who were concerned for her. I couldn't believe how unselfish that was of her; lying in her condition, and worrying about me; her only child! I only hope and pray, that she did not take her last breath, worrying about me. I do believe she passed in peace.

The night before she passed I was able to tell her that I was sorry if I seemed uncompassionate through life. That I loved her, and was sorry. She smiled, nodded, and held my hand. For that moment, I am glad.

Luckily I was able to work from the hospital, so almost every day during her months stay, I was able to be with her. I had to learn to teach myself, that I couldn't worry about it constantly; nothing I could do to fix it. I just stayed on-edge, because I never knew when I would get the dreaded call. The call I got, just after mom had gone.....Friday, December 5th, 2008, exactly one month after being admitted.

I told her, her goal was to be home by Christmas!!! I guess in retrospect, that goal was accomplished, for she was home for Christmas with the Lord, and the family that passed before her!

I was prepared for her passing, that's where a person's faith comes in to play. Many were (are) amazed, how well I have been handling everything. I just say mom was ready to go, and the Lord knew it was her time. My grieving comes and goes; haven't had one gigantic cry, just cry here and there as a memory pops up. Mom was cremated, and I have her with me every day now. I do believe that has been a big help in my grieving process. It was a closure, and is a constant comfort, for me to be able to hug her and talk to her daily. Mom was 85 when she passed. A good "old age", but to me, way too young!

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